The essence of space. Optical illusions. Perspective. In this exhibition, “Spatial Ontology”, Kip Bradley is playing with these concepts using the simple opposition between two dimensions and three dimensions in color and perspective.
Eighteen works are here on display. They are all created on 24” wide vertical strips of aluminum, ranging in height from 60” to 120”. These serve as the support for floating geometric shapes painted in oils. These shapes resemble individual stair steps that have come away from the staircase.
The reason they appear to be like steps (rather than, say, boxes) is that they consist of only two planes – the upright and the flat top that one might step on. They are viewed in one-point perspective, and on them are painted stripes. On the upright plane the stripes are parallel to the sides; on the top plane, however, the stripes are parallel to each other, in conflict with the perspective of the sides, creating a tension.
To add another contradictory element, the value of the colors used is often the reverse of what you might expect, destroying the perspective by ignoring the logic of the light falling on the “step”. To this mix, Bradley adds small two-dimensional rectangles of color along the edges.
What further distorts this perspective is the fact of the aluminum strips having been bent, making the structure a 3-dimensional relief. My question immediately becomes: Did Bradley bend the aluminum before or after painting on it? In many of the works, it would seem that it was bent first, and the step structures were then placed between the bends.
But the most successful, for me, are the ones that look like they were bent after painting – in other words, the bends interrupt the shapes in an interesting visual way. Also, other kinetic distortions occur as a result of the reflective nature of the aluminum which presents curved versions of the objects.
I was immediately reminded of the abstract Op-art movement of the 1960s, and its most well-known proponent, Bridget Riley. Her works were two-dimensional, being composed of stripes of different widths, and in differing perspectives they gave the impression of movement.
Looking into my many art research volumes, I thought it interesting that there was no mention of either Riley or indeed, the entire movement, a popular one of its period. Since we are in the middle of a return to the concerns of the 1960s in fashion, psychedelic color, the perceived need for viewer participation and the issues of nuclear power and war, Kip Bradley’s work can be seen as part of that return.